Page images



[ocr errors]

consequences of things, by which all difficulties fly before him ; a firm friend, and a placable enemy; facrificing his justest resentments, not only to publick good, but to common intercession and acknowledgment. Yet with all these virtues, it must be granted, there is some mixture of human infirmity. His greatest admirers must confess his skill at cards and dice to be very low and superficial; in horse-racing he is utterly ignorant; then to save a few millions to the publick, he never regards how many worthy citizens he hinders from making up their plumb. And surely there is one thing never to be forgiven him ; that he delights to have his table filled with black coats, whom he useth as if they were gentlemen.

My lord Dartmouth * is a man of letters, full of good sense, good nature, and honour; of strict virtue and regularity in his life; but labours under one great defect, that he treats his clerks with more civility and good manners, than others in his station have done the QUEEN,


He succeeded the earl of Sunderland as secretary of state,



Omitting some others, I shall close this character of the present ministry with that of Mr. St. John t, who from his youth applying those admirable talents of nature and improvements of art to publick business, grew eminent in court and parliament at an age, when the generality of mankind is employed in trifles and folly. It is to be lamented, that he hath not yet procured himself a busy, important countenance ; nor learned that profound part of wisdom, to be difficult of access. Besides, he hath clearly mistaken the true use of books, which he hath thumbed, and spoiled with reading, when he ought to have multiplied them on his shelves : not like a great man of my acquaintance, who knew a book by the back better than a friend by the face; although he had never conversed with the former, and often with the latter.

* Secretary of state in the room of Mr. Henry Boyle.





Thursday, February 8, 1710.

Caput eft in omni procuratione negatii et mu

neris publici, ut avaritiae pellatur etiam

minima fufpicio. TH

HERE is no vice which mankind

carries to such wild extremes, as that of avarice. Those two, which seem to rival it in this point, are lust and ambition: but the former is checked by difficulties and diseases, destroys itself by its own pursuits, and usually declines with old age; and the latter, requiring courage conduct and fortune in a high degree, and meeting with a thousand dangers and oppositions, fucceeds too seldom in an age to fall under common observation. Or, avarice is perhaps the same passion with ambition; only placed in more ignoble and daftardly minds, by which the object is changed from power to money. Or it may

be that one man pursues power in order to wealth; and another wealth in order to power ; which last is the safer way, although longer



about; and, suiting with every period, as wel! as condition oflife is moregenerallyfollowed,

However it be, the extremes of this passion are certainly more frequent than of any other; and often to a degree fo absurd and ridiculous, that if it were not for their frequency, they could hardly obtain belief. The stage, which carries other follies and vices beyond nature and probability, falls very short in the representations of avarice; nor are there any extravagancies in this kind described by ancient or modern comedies, which are not out-done by an hundred instances, commonly told among ourselves,

I am ready to conclude from hence, that a vice, which keeps so firm a hold upon human nature, and


it with so unlimited ą tyranny, since it cannat wholly be eradicated, ought at least to be confined to particular obje&s; to thrift and penury, to private fraud and extortion, and never suffered to prey upon the publick; and should certainly be rejected as the most unqualifying circumstance for any employment, where bribery and corruption can possibly enter,


If the mischiefs of this vice in a publick station were confined to enriching only those particular persons employed, the evil would be more supportable: but it is usually quite otherwise. When a steward defrauds his lord, he must connive at the rest of the servants, while they are following the same practice in their several spheres: so that in some families you may observe a subornation of knaves in a link downwards to the very helper in the stables, all cheating by concert, and with impunity. And even if this were all, perhaps the mafter could bear it without being undone ; but it so happens, that for every shilling the servant gets by his iniquity, the master loseth twenty; the perquisites of servants being but small compositions for suffering shopkeepers to bring in what bills they please. It is exactly the same thing in a ftate: an avaricious man in office is in confederacy with the whole clan of his district, or dependence; which in modern terms of art is called to live and let live; and yet their gains are the smallest part

of the publick's loss. Give a guinea to a knavish lạnd-waiter, and he thall connive


« PreviousContinue »